Tragic Homecoming For Claremore Area Soldier

Monday, October 4th 2010, 4:38 pm
By: News On 6

By Tara Vreeland, The News On 6

DELAWARE COUNTY, OKLAHOMA -- A Claremore man died Friday afternoon after crashing his motorcycle into a Delaware County Sheriff's patrol car.

Jeffrey Drake, 25, returned from a tour of duty in Iraq just two days before the accident.

9/28/2010 Related Story: Friends, Family Welcome Tulsa Black Hawk Crews Home

It was a year in the making for 68 National Guard soldiers. But, the elation of coming home, is overshadowed by the death of a brother in arms.

"It's a true loss to the unit, to his family, to the Army," said Chief Warrant Officer Will Kavanagh, who is also the pilot of SKYNEWS 6.

Drake was enjoying a joy ride on his motorcycle Friday afternoon. The Oklahoma Highway Patrol says Drake was driving east on State Highway 28 when he crossed the center line and hit a Delaware County Sheriff's patrol car.

10/1/2010 Related Story: Motorcyclist Dies After Head-On Collision With Delaware County Sheriff Patrol Car

Drake was thrown from his motorcycle and died at the scene. Troopers say he was wearing a helmet. The 75-year-old deputy, Richard Kauffman, was not hurt.

But for a family celebrating the return of a war hero, their hearts are now heavy as they plan his funeral.

Friends say Sergeant Drake served in active duty in the 10th Mountain Division out of Fort Drum New York. He later chose to join the National Guard, to be closer to family.

"He loved aviation. He loved his family," Kavanagh said. "He couldn't talk enough about his home and his wife Jenn."

He served tours of duty in Korea, Afghanistan, and most recently in Iraq with Company B, 2nd Battalion, 285th Aviation.  Sergeant Drake was a Crew chief for the Black Hawk Helicopters.

"It's just tough to go through such an experience with somebody. And you really do bond over there because you have yourselves to lean on. There's no one else " Kavanagh said.

"You could always lean on him and that's the true loss to our unit."

Drake's accident is a tragic reminder that off-duty deaths are far too common for comfort. states that as of June this year, there were 99 accidental fatalities in the Army.

The largest number of off-duty deaths are from privately owned vehicles, 16 of them motorcycles.

Sergeant Drake's funeral will be Tuesday in Verdigris.